Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Summary judgment vs. judgment on the pleadings; cause of action, sufficiency of.

Basbas v. Sayson
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"x x x.

I. The instant case is proper for the rendition of a summary judgment.

Petitioners principally assail the CA’s affirmance of the RTC’s Order granting respondents’ Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings and/or Summary Judgment.

In Tan v. De la Vega,[52] citing Narra Integrated Corporation v. Court of Appeals,[53] the court distinguished summary judgment from judgment on the pleadings, viz:

The existence or appearance of ostensible issues in the pleadings, on the one hand, and their sham or fictitious character, on the other, are what distinguish a proper case for summary judgment from one for a judgment on the pleadings. In a proper case for judgment on the pleadings, there is no ostensible issue at all because of the failure of the defending party’s answer to raise an issue. On the other hand, in the case of a summary judgment, issues apparently exist – i.e. facts are asserted in the complaint regarding which there is as yet no admission, disavowal or qualification; or specific denials or affirmative defenses are in truth set out in the answer – but the issues thus arising from the pleadings are sham, fictitious or not genuine, as shown by affidavits, depositions, or admissions. x x x.

Simply stated, what distinguishes a judgment on the pleadings from a summary judgment is the presence of issues in the Answer to the Complaint. When the Answer fails to tender any issue, that is, if it does not deny the material allegations in the complaint or admits said material allegations of the adverse party’s pleadings by admitting the truthfulness thereof and/or omitting to deal with them at all, a judgment on the pleadings is appropriate.[54] On the other hand, when the Answer specifically denies the material averments of the complaint or asserts affirmative defenses, or in other words raises an issue, a summary judgment is proper provided that the issue raised is not genuine. “A ‘genuine issue’ means an issue of fact which calls for the presentation of evidence, as distinguished from an issue which is fictitious or contrived or which does not constitute a genuine issue for trial.”[55]

a) Judgment on the pleadings is not proper because petitioners’ Answer tendered issues.

In this case, we note that while petitioners’ Answer to respondents’ Complaint practically admitted all the material allegations therein, it nevertheless asserts the affirmative defenses that the action for revival of judgment is not the proper action and that petitioners are not the proper parties. As issues obviously arise from these affirmative defenses, a judgment on the pleadings is clearly improper in this case.

However, before we consider this case appropriate for the rendition of summary judgment, an examination of the issues raised, that is, whether they are genuine issues or not, should first be made.

b) The issues raised are not genuine issues, hence rendition of summary judgment is proper.

To resolve the issues of whether a revival of judgment is the proper action and whether respondents are the proper parties thereto, the RTC merely needed to examine the following: 1) the RTC Order dated September 13, 1989, to determine whether same is a judgment or final order contemplated under Section 6, Rule 39 of the Rules of Court; and, 2) the pleadings of the parties and pertinent portions of the records[56] showing, among others, who among the respondents were oppositors to the land registration case, the heirs of such oppositors and the present occupants of the property. Plainly, these issues could be readily resolved based on the facts established by the pleadings. A full-blown trial on these issues will only entail waste of time and resources as they are clearly not genuine issues requiring presentation of evidence.

Petitioners aver that the RTC should not have granted respondents’ Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings and/or Summary Judgment because of the controverted stipulations and the first three issues enumerated in the Pre-trial Order, which, according to them, require the presentation of evidence. These stipulations and issues, however, when examined, basically boil down to questions relating to the propriety of the action resorted to by respondents, which is revival of judgment, and to the proper parties thereto – the same questions which we have earlier declared as not constituting genuine issues.

In sum, this Court holds that the instant case is proper for the rendition of a summary judgment, hence, the CA committed no error in affirming the May 21, 2001 Order of the RTC granting respondents’ Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings and/or Summary Judgment.

II. The Complaint states a cause of action.

Petitioners contend that the complaint states no cause of action since the

September 13, 1989 Order sought to be revived is not the judgment contemplated under Section 6, Rule 39 of the Rules of Court. They also aver that the RTC erred when it ordered the revival not only of the September 13, 1989 Order but also of the July 24, 1985 CA Decision, when what was prayed for in the complaint was only the revival of the former.

This Court, however, agrees with respondents that these matters have already been sufficiently addressed by the RTC in its Order of May 9, 1997[57] and we quote with approval, viz:

The body of the Complaint as well as the prayer mentioned about the executory decision of the Court of Appeals promulgated on July 24, 1985 that had to be finally implemented. So it appears to this Court that the Complaint does not alone invoke or use as subject thereof the Order of this Court which would implement the decision or judgment regarding the land in question. The Rules of Court referring to the execution of judgment, particularly Rule 39, Sec. 6, provides a mechanism by which the judgment that had not been enforced within five (5) years from the date of its entry or from the date the said judgment has become final and executory could be enforced. In fact, the rule states: “…judgment may be enforced by action.”

So in this Complaint, what is sought is the enforcement of a judgment and the Order of this Court dated September 13, 1989 is part of the process to enforce that judgment. To the mind of the Court, therefore, the Complaint sufficiently states a cause of action.[58]

III. Any perceived defect in the SPA would not serve to bar the case from proceeding.

Anent the SPA, we find that given the particular circumstances in the case at bar, an SPA is not even necessary such that its efficacy or the lack of it would not in any way preclude the case from proceeding. This is because upon Roberto Sr.’s death, Roberto Jr., in succession of his father, became a co-owner of the subject property together with his mother, Beata. As a co-owner, he may, by himself alone, bring an action for the recovery of the co-owned property pursuant to the well-settled principle that “in a co-ownership, co-owners may bring actions for the recovery of co-owned property without the necessity of joining all the other co-owners as co-plaintiffs because the suit is presumed to have been filed for the benefit of his co-owners.”[59]

While we note that the present action for revival of judgment is not an action for recovery, the September 13, 1989 Order sought to be revived herein ordered the petitioners, among others, to vacate the subject property pursuant to the final and executory judgment of the CA affirming the CFI’s adjudication of the same in favor of respondents. This Order was issued after the failure to enforce the writ of execution and alias writ of execution due to petitioners’ refusal to vacate the property. To this Court’s mind, respondents’ purpose in instituting the present action is not only to have the CA Decision in the land registration case finally implemented but ultimately, to recover possession thereof from petitioners. This action is therefore one which Roberto Jr., as co-owner, can bring and prosecute alone, on his own behalf and on behalf of his co-owner, Beata. Hence, a dismissal of the case with respect to Beata pursuant to Sec. 5,[60] Rule 18 of the Rules of Court will be futile as the case could nevertheless be continued by Roberto Jr. in behalf of the two of them.

x x x."